It takes an incredibly special breed of mother to raise a child who is differently-abled, who comes to you not quite fitting the mold of those who came before, whether they came to you through 9 agonizing months of worry and weight gain, or a trip halfway around the globe. Those of us who share the privilege of raising these princes and princesses with autism, a neurodevelopmental disorder that impairs a child’s ability to communicate verbally and non-verbally, interact socially with others, and causes repetitive behaviors, have been given the term ‘Warrior Mamas” due in some small part to our incredible strength and never-quit tenacity.
I’ve had the great fortune to grow and know many Warriors here, as we’ve shared our journeys together – through tears of triumph and tribulation. The sleepless night, the raging hormones, the School Board battles, the medication changes, the intimidating IEPs, the State Capital rallies for tax funding, insurance legislation and appropriate housing for young adults – we are a tireless bunch who won’t hesitate to raise our voices when our children are in need, but remain silent when the spotlight is looking for a soliloquy. We take up our cause at least annually at our favorite walk, race, Puzzlethon™, fashion or art show, or auction – all in the name of research and support for this disorder that families deal with each and every day. And while each of us hopes for a cure someday, we know in our hearts the time for that cure has passed for our children – the battle has shifted to better long-term care, more planning for adults with autism – the future they face is staggering.
One blessed woman I am lucky to call friend, Judith, ran the Boston Marathon yesterday, as she’s done in many years past. The weather, as those from this area know, was atrocious – cold, windy, non-stop rainy the entire 26.2 miles. Each year she runs for her son, soon to be a teen, on the spectrum. She adorns her tiny body with the names of each and every student from her son’s school – the most perfect of placements for him to flourish and be all that he can be. She begins her training months in advance, as do most of the seasoned marathon participants, running in the steeply stacked snow banked winter months, building her endurance in preparation for the big race.
The amazing thing about Judith, in addition to being a Warrior Mama (as if that weren’t already enough!) is she works tirelessly for Autism Speaks, an exceptional organization, where she is helping to promote insurance coverage to states where coverage for autism services, such as occupational therapy, Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA), speech and language services and the like, are not currently mandated coverage for children. She travels across the United States all week long, as those who follow her on Facebook are lucky enough to keep up with her current travels, and still manages to find time for her family, her faith and giving back.
As I watched Judith prepare for this race the last few weeks, she really humbled me in a new way. First, the sheer determination she possesses in that tiny body just blows my mind! Second, as a nation, we all know what happened 2 years ago near the conclusion of the Boston Marathon. Judith was present – shaken but unharmed. Her family was on-hand, as they always are, awaiting her arrival, and as you can imagine the pandemonium…as an observer on television, I was gripped with fear for those I knew were near. As many who stepped out in true humane style, Judith was taken in by someone on the route, fed and warmed up, and helped to contact her family…an act that still gives me chills today. I long for a time when we as a country can stay still in that moment…and just be. We know how to be wonderful to each other – we just can’t capture it for long. To Judith, and all the others – especially those who were wounded during that awful event – that had the courage of their convictions to return once again; to not let evil win…I am in awe. You are what I want my life to be about.
Lastly, for as many more years as Judith sees fit to run this race, she has left behind a legacy for her son that he can be so very proud of. She has left her mark on this world in his name, and that is why I would dare call her ‘Hero.’ Judith…no more, no less…YOU ROCK, GIRL!!
To all my fellow Warrior Mamas: Please smile and take a silent bow! I know you hate the attention, but from one WM to another, some days we need all the kudos we can get!
Dedicated to: (in no particular order…I love you all!) Judith U., Beth K., Shannon K., Kristen B., Noreen S., Diana Y., Donna C., Beth L., Vicki P., Kim S., Darlene B., Onika B., Jennifer W., Annie C., Micaela O., Dianne M.